Chapter Ninety-Six – What the Cobbles Know
Arriving back at Bingley’s house, Bingley bids Jane an affectionate hello and heads inside to get dressed. Jane informs Darcy that Elizabeth is actually in London, knows about Wickham, that Wickham demanded money, and that Elizabeth had gone to Howgrave’s house to meet with him.
The possibility that Elizabeth might have witnessed what occurred upon the steps of that house troubled him but briefly. He knew his Lizzy far too well to believe her capable of willfully misinterpreting an altogether innocent meeting (page 399).
Ah, Darcy. You foolish, foolish man.
He dearly hoped that she had not endeavoured to go to Wickham’s on her own.
“Surely, she would not be so foolish as to think she could bargain with such a man,” he said under his breath (page 399).
Clearly, he has far too much faith in his wife’s intelligence. And don’t call me Shirley.
Jane gives him the address for Kneebone’s place of residence and Darcy leaps aboard his horse and takes off. Arriving, Kneebone informs him that Elizabeth went to see Wickham, alone, and he feels quite bad for letting her do that. I agree. I’m rather astonished that he would do something that idiotic. Darcy feels rather the same way.
Kneebone gives him Wickham’s note and explains that Elizabeth took him the thousand pounds in the hopes of convincing him to leave Lydia alone. And Darcy finally asks the question that should have been asked all along:
“Would this all not have been necessary had Lydia simply denied Wickham as a husband?” (page 400).
Berdoll tries to excuse this, giving us reasons such as Lydia is weak, and naïve, and still sort of loves Wickham, who is a charmer and could cause problems. But I’m still not buying it. Wickham isn’t interested in being married. He doesn’t really give a shit about Lydia. And Lydia is easily manipulated. All they really need to do is bully Lydia into giving Wickham a flat and unequivocal no, that she’s staying with Kneebone. And that’s it. He has nothing over her or any of them. And on the off chance that she chooses Wickham, fuck her. If she’s that stupid she deserves him and good riddance.
Anyway. Darcy heads out the door and a voice calls his name from the darkness.
Surprisingly, Lord Beecher and Lady Catherine don’t get along that well. Eventually, Lord Beecher takes off for London…where he runs into one Caroline Bingley, who just happens to be looking for a reasonably well-off husband with stylish clothes and a title.
Blah blah, Beecher insults someone and is challenged to a duel. He shoots first and misses. He then has to receive fire, panics, runs, and is promptly shot in the ass. Caroline Bingley takes him back to Rosings Park to recover, and everyone notices there’s a romance blooming. Including Lady Catherine. She’s not happy.
Georgiana and Fitzwilliam decide to raise Lady Anne’s daughter.
Suddenly Darcy is in Wickham’s room. No real explanation for how he got there, he’s just there. Wickham is nervous.
[…] he was sporting a lump the size of a potato upon the side of his head thanks to the heavy swing she took at him with her gold-filled reticule (page 408).
Somehow, Wickham being defeated by being hit over the side of his head by a purse sounds unlikely. Especially with Elizabeth swinging it. It’s not that difficult but she’s bound to fuck it up somehow.
They stare at each other for a bit and finally Darcy produces a document and asks Wickham to sign it. Wickham reads it and asks for the money first. Darcy produces ten thousand pounds in cash. Wickham signs, and Darcy leaves, accidentally picking up Wickham’s gloves instead of his own. Wickham realizes that Darcy’s gloves are too big for him.
It was not that Darcy’s gloves were too long for him that riles Wickham so, but that Darcy would realise that his were far too small.
But, then size really did not matter. Did it? (page 411)
I’m guessing this means Wickham has penis envy.
This should actually be chapter ninety-seven. Someone needs to tell Berdoll that having chapters skip forward and backward in time should only be used if it actually adds something to the story.
The voice that Darcy heard was Sally Frances’, who makes his acquaintance and explains that she already spent some time talking to Elizabeth. She guides him to Wickham’s place, and they have a few minor escapades along the way. None of them are remotely interesting, do anything to develop the characters, or alter the storyline in any way. Eventually he leaves her, but not before giving her the pistol he’s carrying, and heads in to see Wickham. For the scene which we’ve already seen.
No book should have more than a hundred chapters. I don’t care how long it is. If it has that many chapters, your chapters are too short.
We’re back to the present now, as Darcy leaves Wickham and starts walking home, as he doesn’t have any money left to pay for a cab. After awhile he hears a whistle and there’s Elizabeth in a carriage. He jumps inside and they take off. He kisses her and they start to talk and sort things out. Darcy explains that he made Wickham sign away his husbandly rights to Lydia. Not that he had any. And that he left a pistol with Sally.
She raised an eyebrow, then smiled.
Quite formally, Darcy said, “We shall report Major Wickham’s reappearance to his regiment. I will give testimony to what I know of his crimes. We shall leave it all to fate.” (page 419).
That’s not leaving things to fate. That’s conspiracy and accomplice to murder. I’m not saying that Wickham doesn’t deserve it, he most certainly does, but this is a sudden and rather dark turn to this novel and to both of their characters. Darcy is basically giving a weapon to someone who has stated her intent to murder Darcy’s half-brother. Elizabeth smiles at the thought of someone trying to murder the father of her nieces and nephews. They’ve both gotten remarkably cold-blooded.
Anyway, now that they’ve laughed at helping someone commit attempted murder, we get back to the real business of the day:
“Pray, sir, may I inquire as to how it came about that upon Regent Street this very afternoon your arm was adorned by your former lover?”
Now that he was safe, it was clear that the events of the day had not worn out the resentment she had formed upon beholding that abhorrent sight. At her inquiry, however, Darcy gave a slightly shake of his head. […] He knew her too well to suppose her pique was merely because of the unseemliness of being seen upon a public street with a woman of Juliette’s reputation (page 420).
Which is funny, because just 21 pages ago, Darcy was thinking something entirely different about the same thing:
He knew his Lizzy far too well to believe her capable of willful misinterpreting an altogether innocent meeting (page 399).
Consistency? What’s that?
So Darcy explains the entire thing and Elizabeth realizes that she was wrong but still is slightly annoyed so Darcy pledges his everlasting, unadulterated, and uncompromising love to her for roughly the thirtieth time, and like all the previous times, it knocks Elizabeth speechless. So they make eyes at each other for awhile and finally decide to head home to Pemberley instead of back to Bingley’s.
Wickham answers the door and Sally walks in. They exchange a few unpleasantries and Sally trains the pistol on him. She promptly begins monologuing about how Wickham killed her brother, John Christie, BUT…and here’s the big reveal…what she has found out is that Darcy was not actually the father of John, but actually…Wickham was!!! Yes that’s right, Wickham killed his own son.
Yeah, I don’t care.
Anyway. Sally gives Wickham a paper that states that the signee is not George Wickham, that Wickham is dead. And tells him to sign it. Wickham asks who he should sign it as, considering that it says he’s dead. Sally tells him to sign it Thomas Reed. Wickham does so. Sally then explains that the reason she made him sign it was because she was going to tell him that Wickham is actually Darcy’s father’s bastard, and now he’ll never be able to profit off that fact.
So we have a document that isn’t signed by Wickham, it’s signed by Thomas Reed, so there’s no way to prove that Wickham signed in. Nor would it be legally binding. Nor would it stop Wickham from trying to profit from being Darcy’s father’s bastard. Nor do they have any way to enforce it. In short, Sally has just done Wickham a favor by giving him information he can use.
She gets a little bit – not much, but a little bit – of respect by robbing Wickham of the ten thousand pounds that Darcy gave him and then shooting him in the balls. Wickham falls to the ground screaming and writhing in pain and Sally leaves.
It’s fitting, I guess, but I’m reasonably certain Wickham is going to come back in the next book and cause a lot of problems, and it will all be Sally’s fault.
Elizabeth mentions that she quite likes the coach they’re riding in, as it has a history. Darcy doesn’t know what she’s talking about at first. But it was the carriage that they were riding in after their wedding night, when he offered her a pillow to sit on because the ride is bumpy and Elizabeth is still smarting from losing her virginity. But after that they had made love, sweet, deep, passionate love.
She could never think of it without a frisson deep within her feminine reaches (page 428).
Yes, it’s time for one last glorious sex scene in this book. They start kissing at first and then Elizabeth leaps on top of him with her skirts covering him so it’s difficult for him to free his John Thomas. And, uh…
Indeed, when at last he freed himself, his tumescence was one of particular glory. As it was hidden beneath the volume of her skirt, however, she was unable to admire it. But when he grasped her by the buttons and drew her forcefully down upon him, she was made fully cognizant of the magnitude of his instrument (page 428).
Words fail me.
Anyway, there’s another reference to ‘the generosity of his member’ – Berdoll is clearly a fan of large penises – and Darcy makes sure she’s all right and Elizabeth says she is and Darcy asks then, if she doesn’t need the pillow.
And that’s it. The end of the novel.
So nothing really came of the entire Lady Catherine escapade. Or the whole Caroline Bingley/Lord Beecher escapade. Or the Morland/Mrs. Bennett fling. Just a lot of loose ends, unsatisfactory storylines, and awkwardly written sex scenes. So just like the last one, really.